The Instigator

Curly appears to be the instigator. She's the one who stealthily slips beneath the fencing to go exploring. And she looks so innocent!

Curly appears to be the instigator. She’s the one who stealthily slips beneath the fencing to go exploring. And she looks so innocent!

Today I got to the barn to find that the horses were playing musical pastures again. Curly was in with Freedom and Willow and Zelda was on the other side of the fence looking annoyed.

It turns out that Curly is a limbo dancer. Someone had pulled down two rails of fencing and she had scooted her way under the electric tape. She looks so innocent, but I am beginning to suspect that she is the escape artist who likes to explore. “What

Limbo horse

Someone, who shall remain nameless, managed to remove the top two rails of the fencing. Then Curly slipped under the tape. Obviously, Freedom and Willow had more food. She’s pretty limber if she can duck under that tape.

me?” She says. “The grass was greener on that side of the fence.”

The horses are fine

Zelda and Curly

Zelda and Curly back where they belong and looking tired.

It’s never a good sign when you wake up to an email from your Barn Owner with “The Horses are Fine” as the message heading. It means your horses have survived, but that they did their best to tempt fate.

This morning, all the horses were involved in a grand adventure, but Zelda was the one who really pushed the envelope.

It started around 5:30 a.m. when the sound of hoof beats — galloping hoof beats — woke the Barn Owners. They came down to the field to find that the horses were playing musical pastures. The fence that separates Curly and Zelda from Freedom and Willow had come down. They had switched sides and Freedom was now rocketing at warp speed around the pasture. When he hits fifth gear, he really flies.

In the meantime, Zelda and Curly continued their pasture hopping and managed to infiltrate the BO’s pasture to play with their horses. Zelda was delighted to have a bigger group to herd and took delight in tormenting the two geldings (who had thought it would be fun to have the girls over but soon realized their mistake).

The broken fence

Zelda took out the top rail and the post on the far left.

The BOs got Curly back on the right side of the fence and then turned to get Zelda. But Zelda didn’t want to wait. She wanted to be with Curly. Right now. Her thought process on how to fix this problem was amazing and a bit scary. I knew she was smart, but still . . . First she walked up to the fence and grabbed the top rail with her teeth. Apparently, she has figured out that she can slide the rail out of some of the sections of the fence. This one was nailed in. She pawed in frustration, backed up and ran at the fence, which is about 4′ tall.

The first time, she pulled up short. Yes, that was only the first time. Not satisfied with her approach, she turned and trotted down to the far end of the field to give herself more momentum. She then turned, galloped, and launched herself at the fence. She almost cleared it. But not quite. Luckily, the fence came down and the only thing broken were the rails.

By the time I got there, the horses were no longer lathered. They were still amped up (the wind was very strong today) and they were enjoying their “new” paddocks. After feeding them, I checked them all and, much to my relief, everyone was fine.

I put them back where they belonged and spent the next couple of hours adding electric tape to the fence in between the paddocks. If Zelda has figured out how to disassemble the fence, she needs a good deterrent — such as electrical current. I also had a long talk with her about not jumping the fences again. But I could tell that she wasn’t listening. She was much more interested in whether the fencing supplies I’d brought with me were edible.

I’d like to think she learned her lesson but I’m afraid that the only thing she learned was either to jump higher or that she’s big enough to destroy most fences.

Here’s to an uneventful Sunday.

Writers Wanted


Riding Writers Wanted! Share what you’ve learned with your fellow equestrians and submit your “How to” article here!

Are you an equestrian with the burning urge to share some of the things you’ve learned over the years? Are you looking for an outlet to write about all things horses? I’d like to talk to you!

No, not for Equine Ink. This is more of my personal space. But I’ve started a new website/blog called EquestrianHow2 — Operating Instructions for Your Horse. The idea came to me when I was searching for information for an Equine Ink article. There was SO much information on the Internet, but not all in one place and not all good (there’s a lot of mis-information out there, too).

Let’s face it, our horses teach us something almost every day! So let’s share it. I’m not in a position to pay for articles but you will earn many karma carrots and the satisfaction of knowing you are helping others.

Editorial Guidelines:

  • All articles must explain “How to” do something that is related to horses or riding.
  • All content must be original (your own) and not published elsewhere (unless it’s your own blog).
  • Articles should be educational rather than promotional.
  • Please include at least ONE visual (photograph or illustration) to use as the featured image. The more pictures the better! Video is great, too.
  • Send your content or ideas to:

I look forward to hearing from you! Together I’m sure we can put together a great site.



Horses and sheep and their amazing eye movements

UC Berkeley and Durham University optometry scientists have discovered the reasons for the horizontal pupil shape of some animals’ eyes — after analyzing  214 species of land animals, they have concluded that species with vertical pupils are more likely to be ambush predators that are active both day and night. Animals with horizontally elongated pupils are likely to be plant-eating prey species with eyes on the sides of their heads. And animals with circular pupils are either active foragers or animals that chase down their prey.

Researchers found that the horizontal pupils of grazing animals like horses, expanded the effective field of view. When stretched horizontally, the pupils are aligned with the ground, getting more light in from the front, back and sides. The orientation also helps limit the amount of dazzling light from the sun above so the animal can see the ground better.

When horses, sheep and other grazing prey animals put their head down to eat, their eyes rotated to maintain the pupils’ horizontal alignment with the ground.

Read more about the study here.

Hmm, I wonder what kind of music Zelda would play?

Sapphire the horse has shown a remarkable talent on the electric keyboard, enjoying both the sounds and the feeling of the keys. He’s got quite a riff going! But he’s not the only horse that likes music.

Researchers at Hartpury College in England tested the effects of different types of music on eight stabled horses. They played classical (Beethoven), country (Hank Williams Jr.), rock (Green Day), and jazz (New Stories) – for 30 minutes each.

The horses showed a marked preference for classical, country music and silence;  jazz and rock music caused horses to display behaviors associated with stress — head tossing, stamping, snorting and vocalizing.

In addition, horses ate more calmly when listening to classical or country music, while when listening to jazz or rock they snatched at food in short bursts.

So next time you have the radio on at the barn, make sure you’ve got it tuned to soothing music. Or, set up a keyboard and see what happens. Sapphire’s playing is surprisingly musical — it makes me wonder what Zelda would produce!

It’s a good thing, right?

Three legs

It’s pretty obvious that foot hurts! I am hoping that the “good news” is that it’s “only” an abscess.

Freedom’s mysterious hind end lameness took an accelerated curve to the left when I arrived to find him literally standing on three legs. He will put weight on that hoof/leg when asked to walk, but it’s pretty obvious that it’s painful.

It’s pretty horrific to find your horse standing like that. He wasn’t favoring it to that extent when I fed in the morning on Friday, but when I went back to check on him mid day, it had become acute. My heart sunk when I saw him and visions of breaks and dislocations flashed through my mind.

After going through the first few OMG minutes, I started to hope it was a good thing. An abscess brewing in the left hind could have caused the lameness I’d felt last week. Lack of rain has left the ground hard as concrete and I know the horses have been stamping on flies almost continuously. I tried to remind myself that it’s usually the obvious thing that is the problem.

Magic Cushion

In my experience, packing a hoof with Magic Cushion can help draw the abscess out.

A call to the vet calmed me down a bit. She didn’t feel it was essential to come out as an emergency call and suggested that since his appetite was good and he didn’t look distressed other than holding his leg in the air, it was most likely “just” an abscess. I am supposed to treat it like one and then we can revisit it on Tuesday (I’m traveling today).

So, I’ve packed his hoof with Magic Cushion, slipped some Previcox in his grain, and am hoping that he’ll start feeling better soon and that the mysterious lameness will be revealed as a (relatively) minor abscess.

The Shame of Big Lick Walking Horses

While PETA horrified the world with video from the shedrow at Steve Asmussen’s racing barn, the abuse that Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horses (TWH) suffer has mostly gone under the radar, even though, by most accounts, it’s far more pervasive and far more severe. Many of the top show horses olive lives wracked by pain so severe that they don’t want to stand up and are beaten in their stalls.

Last week the Humane Society has released a report that shows that soring techniques are rampant among the trainers of Big Lick Walkers to encourage the highly exaggerated gait known as the “Big Lick” even though the practice was banned in 1970 when the Horse Protection Act (HPA) was passed to protect the horse from intentional soring.

The soring of TWH started in the late 1940s and early 1950s when a few horses with more animation to their gaits started winning championships. While breeding and training created horses with more extravagant gaits, more nefarious methods were soon introduced. Soring involves the application of caustic liquids to the horses legs — commonly used are mustard oil, diesel fuel or kerosene — often with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) to increase the chemicals’ absorption. Then the legs are wrapped in plastic wrap and left to “cook” until the legs are tender.

In addition to the soring, performance TWHs wear ankle chains and weighted shoes. The combination results in an animated gait where the horses lift their front legs higher and flick them out in front of their bodies, while at the same time the horse crouches on its hind legs to avoid the pain in front. To my eyes, the gait looks both artificial and painful, not beautiful.

The video below is a longer program that talks more about the history of the Tennessee Walking Horse and how the industry could be channeled back toward the breed’s natural gaits. It’s hard to watch at times. One of the saddest statements is when a nationally recognized trainer, who now opposes soring, says that his father taught him how to sore a horse when he was 13 and that for many years he just accepted the practice without understanding that a pain-based gait was wrong. Maybe this time the attention give to the Tennessee Walking Horse will finally help break the cycle of pain for this lovely breed.


Insulin Resistance in Horses


Willow wears the Muzzle of Shame. Don’t worry, even though she looks pitiful, she is still able to eat enough through the hole in the bottom to survive. Sometimes, I wonder if the Muzzle of Shame could be used to stop humans from over eating!

Freedom’s pasture-mate, Willow, was recently diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrom (EMS) or Insulin Resistance (IR).

 What does that mean?

According to the Department of Animal Science at the University of Connecticut,

Glucose (sugar) normally functions to fuel many metabolic processes in the body and is the primary energy currency of the body. Insulin is normally produced in response to elevated blood glucose and is key to the regulation of blood glucose concentrations and glucose utilization. Insulin promotes glucose uptake by cells and promotes formation of glycogen or fat. Insulin resistance is defined as a reduced sensitivity of the body’s cells to insulin’s facilitation of glucose uptake.

Basically what happens in insulin resistance is that the cells become resistant to the glucose uptake action of insulin. Initially, this just means that more insulin is needed (hyperinsulinemia) to keep blood glucose concentrations within normal limits after a starchy or high sugar meal. If it is severe enough even super high insulin concentrations are ineffective and blood glucose may also be abnormally high. The problem is that not only does this limit energy availability to the cells but insulin also has other effects on the body that may be detrimental when it is higher than normal for prolonged periods of time. Unlike humans, horses rarely go into the second stage, where the pancreas becomes “exhausted” and no longer can secrete adequate insulin.

In practical terms, this means that Willow, who only gets enough concentrate to mask her vitamin/mineral supplement, must wear a grazing muzzle because too much sugar could cause an episode of laminitis. In fact, it was because her owner felt digital pulses that she ran a blood panel and got the diagnosis.

It didn’t take Willow very long to figure out that this is NOT FUN. She is getting less tolerant about putting it on, although putting a tiny bit of grain in the muzzle is still enough of a temptation to overcome her reluctance. Unfortunately for Willow the new barn has a lot of grass and she’s mighty peeved that her access is now restricted.

I tried using a muzzle on Freedom when I first got him – not because I need to restrict his eating, but as a way to stop him cribbing. That lasted about 5 minutes. He destroyed two or three grazing muzzles in short order and then refused to let me near him him with a halter.

Have you had to use a grazing muzzle on your horse or pony?